At the UNICEF Innovation Unit, we always talk about scale. We strive to ensure that the solutions we design for the world’s marginalized children can be replicated and adapted across geographies and contexts in order to have the greatest reach and impact.
Most recently, we have applied this concept of scale to UNICEF’s first academic competition – Design for UNICEF Challenge – by extending it from a partnership with a single university to a model of global engagement and problem-solving, targeting 20-25 South-based institutions in the next two years.
On February 7th, students from the City University of New York (CUNY) attended a Meet & Greet to kick off their second year of the Challenge. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Lebanon, two other schools – Lebanese American University (LAU) and American University of Beirut (AUB) – prepared for a similar event. LAU and AUB are joining CUNY for the spring semester of the Challenge, with plans to include additional academic institutions in Indonesia, Uganda, and Bangladesh next fall.
The Challenge gives students a uniquely rewarding opportunity: to work with UNICEF and come up with innovative solutions to pressing development problems facing children. The online curriculum is shaped around context-specific problems coming out of UNICEF Country Offices in response to actual needs on the ground. UNICEF experts and faculty advisors provide guidance and resources through the four-month project development and design process. Top performing teams win a chance to work with a UNICEF Country Office to test their idea in the field.
The Meet & Greet at CUNY brought together key representation from both organizations, including Mima Stojanovic, Project Lead at UNICEF, and Eric Vieira, Project Coordinator at CUNY, who discussed the value of initiatives like the Challenge in bringing research and applied learning opportunities to students.
The event also featured Mac Glovinsky, Lead of Innovation in Humanitarian Action at UNICEF, who shared his experiences as part of a UNICEF response team in the Philippines following Typhoon Hayan. Emergency Response is introduced as a new focus area this year, alongside Child Survival.
“In an emergency, connectivity is lifesaving. Leveraging informal networking systems and identifying alternative sources of energy will be key to tackling the issue of connectivity,” explains Mac.
By challenging new cohorts of students every year with real-world problems, the Global Design for UNICEF Challenge scale-up is preparing the next generation of leaders and policymakers to apply more creative, localized ways of understanding problems and creating change.
Mima Stojanovic, Project Lead, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ
Norah Maki, Project Assistant, CUNY
Read more about the Design for UNICEF Challenge: